Murder at the Deadwood Saloon

We had us a rootin’ tootin’ good time at my annual murder mystery birthday party last night. This time it was a night of mystery and mayhem in the Old West — at last, a theme that even the guys could get excited about!

Turning the house into a 1870s saloon was a ton of fun. I got checkered tablecloths, red plastic plates, mason jar glasses, and even bandanas and ropes for napkin settings. I also tracked down some old tin pails to hold peanuts and pretzels. There was just enough space in the living room to place two folding tables parallel to each other — last year we had one long banquet table for Once Upon a Murder, but this time I thought two separate tables would give more of a saloon look. The two-table setup also made it easy to move around and chat with everybody, so that was a huge bonus.

I even managed to get my brother and my husband (neither of whom are big on costume parties) to craft real saloon doors to place at the entrance to the kitchen. This was no easy feat, but they pulled it off, and the effect was amazing. People were wandering into the kitchen for no real reason just so they could go through those doors.

The guys were more than happy to undertake one other project, too: drinking enough booze that I could fill my china cabinet with old bottles. The murder mystery came with vintage liquor labels that were totally awesome.

I used a Michaels coupon to get a cheap woodburning kit just so I could burn the “Saloon” sign, but it turned out so well that I decided to use the kit for the “Saloon Rules” sign too. It was a really slow process to burn all those letters (good thing I started early!) but it really added to the Old West ambience.

The premise of the mystery was that we were all gathered at the saloon to celebrate the end of a poker tournament, so I tried to carry the Wild West-poker theme through the names of the food: Full House Nachos, Chuckwagon Chili, Ace-High Apple Pie and so on. (I briefly considered using the woodburner for the menu sign too, but had to pass when I realized I had neither the patience nor the fine motor skills to burn letters that small.) I made pulled pork for the first time ever — thankfully it turned out all right.

Kudos to everyone for really getting into character! The costumes were outstanding and there was some seriously funny ad libbing going on (something about Jesse Wales’ unnatural relationship with her horse…I never did get the full story on that one.) We voted on best actor (Montgomery Money) and best costume (Gambling Jack), plus there were prizes for who ended up with the most money (Holly Hickok) and who correctly guessed the murderer (I was the only one who got it right and no, I didn’t know beforehand…really.)

It was a blast!